Method: This study employed a cross-sectional research design and utilized a statewide sample of 209 respondents from a public child welfare organization in a New England state. The main analysis of this study utilized Structural Equation Modeling. The first stage included direct paths from all the individual characteristics (age, education, parent status, marital status, and number of years with the organization) to all of the various social capital dimensions (cooperation, social relationships, organizational commitment, fairness and influence). A direct path was also specified from all of the social capital components to job stress. In the second and final stage, only the statistically significant direct paths from the individual characteristics to the social capital variables were included. Additionally, direct paths were added from the social capital components, job stress, and individual characteristics to burnout.
Results: In the first stage, results indicate that various social capital dimensions were significantly associated with job stress. Employees who reported lower levels of communication, supervisory support, organizational commitment, influence, and fairness experienced more job stress. Social capital variables accounted for 62% of the variance in job stress. Only a few dimensions of social capital were directly and significantly associated with emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. However, social capital was indirectly associated with burnout through job stress, which was directly and significantly associated with burnout.
Conclusion: Our findings provide some evidence to suggest that employment-based social capital is a helpful explanatory dynamic for assessing the quality of relationships in the workplace and how they might be used to safeguard against job stress and burnout. It seems prudent for organizations to assess the various dimensions of social capital in order to gain a better understanding of how their employees perceive the levels of stress associated with the environment in which they work. Doing so may provide a path in addressing the levels of job stress and burnout experienced by child protection workers that stem from the organizational structure and climate.